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Anti-abortion group stages demonstration in front of Planned Parenthood despite judge's order

A preliminary injunction said The Church of Planned Parenthood must stay at least 35 feet away from the facility.

SPOKANE, Wash — Despite a preliminary injunction ordering them not to, The Church of Planned Parenthood staged a protest outside of Spokane's Planned Parenthood facility Tuesday night.

The court order restricts when, where, and how the group can hold its anti-abortion demonstration services. Members may not protest within 35 feet of the facility, or until at least an hour after the place closes, meaning 7 p.m. They also cannot make disruptive noise or block entrance to the building.

The injunction, issued Monday, cited state law protecting healthcare facilities in the decision to limit the group's activities, which are usually held monthly in front of the building.

Pastor Ken Peters called it a violation of First Amendment rights.

"The injunction is totally unconstitutional. We completely disagree with it," he said. "But it's Washington State. Washington State is run by leftists."

To Planned Parenthood, the ruling was a big win for staff and patients.

"They should not have to go through this circus that's happening outside the health center," said spokesman Paul Dillon. "We're a health center. We're no different than any health center. And we're very excited about the judge's ruling."

Dillon says the judge drew a firm line, that the First Amendment doesn't give protesters the right to harass people seeking care.

"We respect the right to free speech and the First Amendment," he said. "This is about interfering with a healthcare facility, interfering with patient access. That could not be more clear."

Just before 6 p.m. it seemed like Peters and his congregation intended to comply fully with the order, despite their complaints.

"They came down with the injunction yesterday. You can't tell me that wasn't on purpose. It wasn't an accident. And so we didn't have any time to think about it, to pray about it, to ask our lawyers for advice, to ask other pastors for advice," said Peters. "So I felt for this service, at least, we're going to punt. Now just because we punt, doesn't mean we're surrendering."

However, at around 6:30 p.m. controversial outgoing Washington State Representative Matt Shea (R-Spokane Valley) led a group of congregants to protest silently directly in front of the building. They stood there, mostly praying, for about a half an hour, in apparent violation of the court order.

Police presence was heavier than usual, according to Dillon. However, officers did not intervene to make arrests or move the protesters away.

Spokane Police Department Sergeant Terry Preuninger says that's because the court order was civil, not criminal.

"SPD personnel will report any suspected violations of the civil injunction to the court for judicial review and adjudication as directed by the judge," he wrote in a statement. "The court did not grant law enforcement authority to criminally enforce violations of the injunction."

By around 7 p.m. most of the protesters had moved back across the street for the formal service.